October 12 2004 at 10:54AM
By Shoneez Bulbulia
Sonia van der Merwe of Benoni will spend her 33rd birthday on Tuesday listening to evidence in the Secunda High Court trial of four men accused of murdering her parents, brother and sister-in-law.
"This is definitely not a happy birthday for me," Van der Merwe said.
Her father Frans van der Merwe, his wife Gina, their son Daryl and his wife Melissa were found dead near Loskop Dam in Mpumalanga on February 9. All had been shot.
Themba Luke Radebe, Lucky Peter Mbalati, Clement Bay-Bay Makua and Vincent Mokhosonke Khubeka face 22 charges, including murder, attempted murder, rape, theft and abduction relating to their deaths.
Dressed in a baby blue suit the petite blonde said that giving testimony on Monday had been exhausting.
"This whole thing just does not feel real. It is all a nightmare. After this I have to find a way to carry on. The only thing I have had to do with courts was when I watched Ally MacBeal, but now I am actually here."
She said that on Monday Khubeka's mother Beauty had approached her and apologised for what her son had allegedly done.
"She said she could not believe it. It was very brave and nice of her," Van der Merwe said.
Jackie Clarkson, mother of Melissa said: "I was not going to come today. I could not face it. But I have received lots of support. And I decided to come and support Sonia because it was her birthday."
On Monday Van der Merwe told the court that she discovered that something was amiss when she went to her parents' house at Farrarmere, Benoni, on the East Rand after her father and Melissa did not turn up for work on February 9.
She found the house in disarray and her father's Volkswagen Jetta and Ford Bantam bakkie missing. Her brother Daryl and his wife Melissa's house nearby was also in disarray, and Melissa's Opel Corsa missing. Police later recovered the bloodstained Jetta and the bakkie in Alexandra, Johannesburg. The Corsa was found near the crime scene in Mpumalanga.
She said she had known Khubeka since he was a toddler. He had been employed in the family's business.
"Vincent's father used to work for my father for over 20 years. I even know his uncle," she told the court.
The accused arrived on Tuesday wearing smart casual clothes and new sneakers, with one carrying a Bible in his hand.
Pretoria-based advocated Fanus Maritz was appointed by the Legal Aid board to represent three of the accused while the parents of the fourth, Mbalati, agreed to pay for a private lawyer.
Judge Nico Coetzee is presiding.
Khubeka has pleaded guilty to two charges of robbery and one of theft, and the other three have pleaded not guilty to all 22 charges. - Sapa